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Everything about the Japanese Honesuki

A Japanese alternative to your boning knife, Honesuki is a specialty knife commonly used for breaking down whole chicken or other poultry. Although it doesn’t carry the primary characteristics of what you’d find in a western-styled boning knife for the same purpose, it makes cutting a whole chicken into pieces effortless. Other than poultry, you can use Honesuki to cut meats off of large cuts of beef and do trimming work. 

This article will go over everything you need to know about Honesuki, how it can benefit you in the kitchen, and compare it with the traditional boning knife. 

Japanese Honesuki features

Honesuki doesn’t have the typical characteristics of Japanese kitchen knives. It’s heavier than many other Japanese knives and has a thick spine with a triangular design. Still, it’s razor-sharp and just as elegant. Here are the main traits of this Japanese boning knife.

Typically, Japanese kitchen knives are thin and lightweight – Honesuki, not so much. Despite its relatively small size, it’s heavier than many other Japanese knives and has a thick spine with a triangular design. Still, it’s razor-sharp at the edge and just as elegant. Here are the main traits of this Japanese boning knife.

Blade design

Honesuki blade design
Source: YouTube

Honesuki has a triangular design with a relatively flat spine that leads to a pointy tip. The Honesuki’s spine is fairly thick, allowing you to press down on the blade with your forefinger to cut smoothly. It also allows you to control the blade steadily. Don’t let the broad spine fool you, though. It tapers down snappily to a very thin, sharp cutting edge. 

The blade has an angle from the heel to the tip, forming a triangular shape. This design element helps you press the blade down between joints and effortlessly cuts through them. The heavy spine also lets you push the knife down when you need extra power. 

Honesuki has a sizable gap between the heel and handle. This opening allows cutting the ingredients while moving the blade away from you as opposed towards you – a handy perk when separating chicken parts, especially the breast. 

Utilizing this section, you can make a single cut from one end to the other in a single motion. If that’s not comfortable enough, you can always use the tip to get in between the breastbone and the meat to separate them. 

Size

Considering the knife’s purpose, Honesuki doesn’t give much blade size. Commonly, a Honesuki’s blade is between four and six inches long. Some knife manufacturers make it as long as eight inches, but if you require that much blade size, a Gyuto might be a better option instead.

Although Honesuki is considerably small, it has a weight to it. This weight is mainly due to the thick spine and the initial blade width from the heel. The average weight for Honesuki is around 200 grams, but as the blade gets longer, the overall weight gets higher.

Edge

Traditional Honesuki knives have a single bevel edge like many other Japanese specialty knives. However, double bevel options are also widespread in knife stores.

Chicken is one of the most popular animal meats, and Honesuki is a great knife to cut it into individual pieces. For this reason, double bevel options are somewhat more accessible compared to other Japanese specialty knives. If a double bevel Honesuki is what you’re after, you’ll find one easily. 

Steel

Again, like many other Japanese specialty knives, Honesuki is commonly made from carbon steel. or its variations like the high carbon steel. Due to thiscarbon steel’s hardness and the blade’s thickness at the spine, it doesn’t offer much flexibility. Since these blades aren’t as common in the West, knife manufacturers also make stainless steel Honesuki. Nevertheless, don’t expect your Honesuki to be as flexible as the western boning knife. 

Honesuki vs. western boning knife

Honesuki cutting chicken

As you can figure out from the Honesuki’s features, they are very different from the boning knives in the West. It seems like when the chefs in the western part of the world favor narrow blades for specific tasks, the Japanese like them wider. This isn’t special to Honesuki and the western boning knife. A similar thing applies to the knives used for filleting fish, as it’s the case with the Deba knife.

The traditional western boning knife has a narrow blade that resembles a needle. The curve at the belly of the boning knife is its biggest strength. It allows you to slide the blade into the critical parts of the meat you’re working with to debone and separate. The narrow blade is also flexible enough to forgive a little when maneuvering the knife and makes cutting overall easier. 

While these are great, boning knives often require you to use the weight of the meat you’re cutting. For example, take removing the wings as an example. With a western boning knife, you’ll often need to lift the whole chicken from the wing and go around or in between joints to separate it. This is because the boning knife doesn’t have much weight, and the blade’s shape doesn’t let us press in between the joints as quickly.

When using Honesuki, on the other hand, you can lay the chicken on the cutting board for the entire process and don’t use your other hand as often to guide your cuts. Having the ability to press on the knife and use its weight to cut makes everything a lot easier. 

However, this may lead to a question: Why not use a chef’s knife instead? Your chef’s knife probably doesn’t have a thick enough spine, a sharp heel that you can move the blade away from you to cut, and a centralized tip to make slits without tearing the meat. Plus, the chances are your chef’s knife is a lot longer and will bring more challenges than ease. That’s why boning knives and the Honesuki are both under 6 inches. 

Should I get a Honesuki?

If poultry, especially chicken, is a staple in your diet, investing in a good-quality Honesuki can save you time and money. With a Honesuki, you can break chicken into pieces effortlessly in an efficient and quick manner. 

Considering that purchasing a whole chicken is generally cheaper than buying individual pieces, having a fantastic tool like Honesuki to break down poultry into pieces will save you money. Additionally, knowing your way around to break down poultry will make you a better cook overall. 

Furthermore, you’ll be able to use your Honesuki not just for poultry but also when preparing large cuts of meat. Just as it doesn’t have problems going through chicken joints, you’ll be able to cut through small bones to prepare meats for cooking. These make Honesuki an excellent investment altogether.

How to choose a Honesuki?

Much of the general recommendations for buying a kitchen knife apply to Honesuki. You need to see it as more than just a blade and handle to make the right decision. Consider these when buying a Honesuki. 

  • Size: See if the blade size is appropriate for you. Buying a Honesuki too big or small for the tasks you anticipate performing can result in regretting your decision.
  • Steel: Most Honesuki are made from carbon steel, and this requires the user to show a little more care to it than other knives. However, these care requirements are very minimum. Keep your carbon steel knives clean and dry after use, apply food-grade mineral oil when storing, and don’t leave them in the sink dirty. Still, if these sound like a lot of work, choose a stainless steel version instead. Nonetheless, note that your knife will perform at its best when you care for it, and it will treat you just as right. 
  • Handle: Generally, Honesuki is equipped with the traditional Japanese handle, the wa-handle. Some cooks have a hard time adjusting this, and if you don’t want the trouble, you can always find one with a western handle. Try those that come with a Japanese handle and see if you find it working for you. Even if you tried another type of knife with a Japanese handle and did or did not like it, the chances are it won’t be different with Honesuki.
  • Edge: Traditionally, Honesuki is a single bevel knife. If you’re a leftie, you will have to get one for left-hand use. If you’re not the only one that will use the knife or are not as experienced with kitchen knives, opt for a double bevel alternative instead. 

Ending

Honesuki is the Japanese boning knife. Use it to break down poultry into pieces and debone meats. You can use it for other tasks as well, but as with any other specialty knife, it’s best to use it for the intended purpose. Investing in one can make life in the kitchen easier when preparing animal protein and will last you a long time when cared for properly. 

Learn more about different kitchen knives on the HDMD Knives blog and head to our handmade collection to shop for handmade kitchen knives.

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